In Reference To Land Rights And Criminal Justice System, How Have Aborigines Been Disadvantaged By Past Government Policies?

1104 words - 4 pages

Past government policies which have disadvantaged ATSI in terms of land rights can be traced as early as settlement times in the late 18th century with the concept of Terra Nullius, to the still limited status of ATSI in owning traditional lands with the 1970s-present policy of self determination. These government policies have not only brought problems concerning land rights, but also other issues which continue to impact contemporary Australia, such as the Stolen Generation and Assimilation.The disadvantages of ATSI in recognition of Land Rights stems from the legal concept from which Australia was settled in the 18th century- Terra Nullius. British settlers had claimed sovereignty of the land citing that its indigenous inhabitants had a system of law which was primitive (due to their nomadic lifestyle) and not recognised by the Crown; hence, the land belonged to nobody. Claiming the land as theirs, the British had ignored ATSI customary and spiritual law who saw themselves as 'guardians' and 'custodians' of the land as opposed to owners. Misunderstandings to the British common law system, such as of private property, saw the ATSI lose their land and waterholes to pastoralists and farmers.Due to their misunderstanding of the common law system, many ATSI were imprisoned for crimes such as taking farm animals. ATSI were often targeted by police for crimes which non-ATSI would have not been imprisoned for, due to the belief that they were sub-humans.The early 1800s saw the dispersal and dispossession policy where landholders, assisted by police and officials, systematically shot and poisoned ATSI, or drove them inland away from traditional lands. Examples include of Port Phillip and Bathurst 1824, where ATSI were killed for their lands- by 1850s; ATSI had been reduced from 85000 to a few thousand, with acts such as the 1816 Martial Law Act which allowed for the shooting of ATSI on site ir armed or within distance to housing. The disadvantage of ATSI in being unprotected under English law is also evident in this policy, where they were not educated of court procedures and ATSI evidence was only admissible if corroborated by non-ATSI witnesses.As a result from being cut off from their traditional land, which had now been settled with the inception of all English law in applicable circumstances (Doctrine of reception), many ATSI who were imprisoned suffered from depression from being within confined areas often leading to suicides.The following policy of 'Protection' and 'Segregation' where Aborigines were imposed British customs and Christian values in efforts to 'civilize' them also saw a multitude of injustices faced by ATSI with the state/colonial governments effectively able to control their lives by making laws for them, such as marriage. Acts such as the 1886 Aboriginal Protection Act 1886 (WA) established an Aboriginal Protection Board which gave control for the management of reserves (no legal title however) in which ATSI were segregated in...

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